Seeds of Mindfulness


The Buddha said that in the depth of our store consciousness, ālāyavijñāna, there are all kinds of positive and negative seeds — seeds of anger, delusion, and fear, and seeds of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. . . . We should learn to recognize every one of these seeds in us in order to practice diligence. If it is a negative seed, the seed of an affliction like anger, fear, jealousy, or discrimination, we should refrain from allowing it to be watered in our daily life. Every time suck a seed is watered, it will manifest on the upper level of our consciousness, and we will suffer and make the people we love suffer at the same time. The practice is to refrain from watering the negative seeds in us.


We also recognize the negative seeds in the people we love and try our best not to water them. . . . If you want to be happy, avoid watering your own negative seeds and ask others not to water those seeds in you. Also, avoid watering the negative seeds in others.


We also try to recognize the positive seeds that are in us and to live our daily life in a way that we can touch them and help them manifest on the upper level of our consciousness, manovijñāna. Every time they manifest and stay on the upper level of our consciousness for a while, they grow stronger. If the positive seeds in us grow stronger day and night, we will be happy and we will make the people we love happy. Recognize the positive seeds in the person you love, water those seeds, and he will become much happier. . . . Whenever you have time, please water the seeds that need to be watered. It is a wonderful and very pleasant practice of diligence, and it brings immediate results.


Imagine a circle divided in two. Below is the store consciousness and above is mind consciousness. All mental formations lie deep down in our store consciousness. Every seed in our store consciousness can be touch and manifests itself on the upper level, namely our mind consciousness. Continued practice means trying our best not to allow the negative seeds in our store consciousness to be touched in our daily life, not to give them a chance to manifest themselves. The seeds of anger, discrimination, despair, jealousy, and craving are all there. We do what we can to prevent them from coming up. . . . We have to recognize the kinds of seeds not to be watered. If it happens that a negative seed, the seed of an affliction, is watered and manifests itself, we do everything in our power to embrace it with our mindfulness and help it return to where it came from. The longer such sees stay in our mind consciousness, the stronger they become.


The Buddha suggested a practice called “changing the peg.” When a peg of wood is not the right size or is rotting or in disrepair, a carpenter will replace it by putting another peg on exactly the same spot and driving the new peg into the old one. If you have a mental formation arising that you consider to be unwholesome, one way to practice is to invite another mental formation to replace it. Many seeds in your store consciousness are wholesome and beautiful. Just breathe in and out and invite one of them to come up, and the other seed will go down. This is called “changing the peg.”


[T]ouch as many positive seeds in your store consciousness as you can so that they will manifest in your mind consciousness. On a television set, if you want a certain program, you push the button to bring you that program. Invite only pleasant seeds to come up and sit in the living room of your consciousness. Never invite a guest who brings you sorrow and affliction. And tell your friends, “If you love me, please water the wholesome seeds in me every day.” One wonderful seed is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the Buddha in us. Use every opportunity to touch that seed and help it manifest on the upper level of your consciousness.


[K]eep the wholesome seed as long as possible once it has manifested. If mindfulness is maintained for fifteen minutes, the seed of mindfulness will be strengthened, and the next time you need the energy of mindfulness, it will be easier to bring up. It is very important to help the seeds of mindfulness, forgiveness, and compassion to grow, and the way to do this is to help them be present in your mind consciousness as long as possible. This is called transformation at the base — ashraya paravritti. . . .


–Thích Nhất Hạnh, from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

While I was waiting to find out what was up with my health and as a result of the events of the past year, I thought it might be beneficial to start doing more with Buddhism. So far that has mostly involved reading. (I meditated, once, and discovered a Buddhist temple I want to check out.) I found the above passage really helpful — it speaks to a lot of things I’d been thinking, but I didn’t really know why I was thinking in such a way or what to do with it.

Earlier in the book he talks about “nutriments.” When you’re suffering, you should look at what kind of nutriments have been feeding your suffering. It’s like how if you’re feeling run down and crappy you might want to take a look at what you’ve been eating and start eating better. In that respect, I’m very careful about what I consume — I’m a pretty health-conscious vegetarian who eats organic, mostly homemade food. I apologize for how smug this sounds but I wouldn’t even consider, for example, eating at McDonald’s or consuming GMO-laden processed foods. When I considered what I’ve been feeding my mind, though, I realized I’ve been stuffing it full of nutriments that aren’t so good. I still read internet snark and get riled up about stuff like people grifting others through Kickstarter or sell-out fashion bloggers. I still visit blogs that water the seeds of craving or envy, or that make me feel judgy and superior. Maybe I should change to healthier and more beneficial nutriments.

This is not to say I’m suffering right now. If anything, I’m more content and less fearful than I was a year ago. When you go through a lot of crap, there’s a good chance you’ll come out stronger. But I know that one day, I’ll need the energy of mindfulness, and I want to be able to easily bring it up. I also have the idea that immersing myself in positivity (and by “positivity” I mean actual, substantive positivity, like creative projects — maybe writing here instead of online shopping or hate reading, not law-of-attraction bullshit) might lead to something really cool and transformative. I guess the only way to find out is to try.


If you’re looking for a way to help people in Nepal, here’s a good option.